There’s been a lot of hot research going lately about just exactly what it is that makes people smart. That is, aside from basic genetic make up, unique life experiences, and finally figuring out how to do the self-checkout at the supermarket. Scientists are now looking at what we can do to increase brain activity. Boomers are especially interested in this because they have started to misplace a lot of things, including brain cells. So anything that can be done to get them back (the brain cells, specifically, although the lost items would be swell), would be something they’d be interested in.
Many people buy Gingko biloba. The Gingko is a Maidenhair tree,a unique species of tree with no close living relatives. This enables it to spend entire days at the movies on Thanksgiving and Christmas, while other trees are trying to get along with their familes but just ending up having really bad arguments and indigestion. Scientists still haven’t figured out what a biloba is, but one theory is that it is a–. Forget it. Nobody really cares what it is. They just want to know if it works. Research is mixed. But we do know that it can be dangerous to combine Gingko biloba with certain medications. The result would be much the same as a giant Gingko biloba falling on one’s head.
Crossword puzzles are a favorite pastime of people who like to do crossword puzzles. They are also touted as a way to increase brain cell production. Now we know that the only result of doing crossword puzzles on a regular basis is that it will allow one to write one’s life story without ever using a single word containing a vowel.
“Brain games” fare no better. In a study of 11,430 people, playing such games for three weeks straight didn’t make them brighter. In fact, at the end of the study period, most of them discovered that their families had left and taken all the furniture with them.
So, what does work? Meditation. New research shows that 20 minutes of meditation a day, four days a week, can produce an impressive increase in critical cognitive skills. There’s a catch, though. You have to keep it up. If you stop meditating, those little brain cells will go back to wherever they came from before you started meditating. It’s like wherever muscles go when you stop going to the gym for two days, even though you tried but there was no space in the parking lot so it isn’t even your fault.
Aerobic exercise works. According to Newsweek, “Simple aerobic exercise gooses the creation of how neurons in the region of the hippocampus that files away experiences and new knowledge.” This is especially relevant to Boomers, as most of us vividly remember goosing people in early adolescence. Again, according to Newsweek, “Exercise stimulates the production of neuron fertilizers(which means we can still be fertile without actually producing more children)…stimulates the productions of new synapses…and can give a 70 year old the connectivity of a 30 year old.” If nothing else, this last part should have most 70 year old men standing at attention.
In sum: Meditate. Exercise. And watch out for those 70 year olds.